National Museum of Women in the Arts
Adrian Piper
September 20 1948 - present
Photograph of Adrian Piper, by Albert Landau, courtesy of Adrian Piper Research Archive, Berlin, Germany. (c) Albert Landau
Place of Birth:
New York
American, German
Phonetic Spelling:
AY-dree-an PEYE-perr
Minority status:
Work Type/Media:
Books and manuscripts, Drawings and prints, Multimedia (electronic, digital, video, film), Painting, Performance Art , Photography
Artistic Role(s):
Book Artist, Draftsperson, Installation Artist, Multimedia Artist, Painter, Performance Artist, Photographer, Printmaker
Conceptual Art
Artist's Biography:
Adrian Piper is a first-generation conceptual artist whose provocative performance pieces and installations have been pushing the intellectual boundaries of art since the 1960s. Born Adrian Margaret Smith Piper in 1948 in New York, she began drawing at age four and took classes as a child at the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Students League of New York. Prior to graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 1969, Piper was already exhibiting her work in prominent museums and galleries and assisting Lucy Lippard and Sol Lewitt with projects. While continuing to produce art, she received a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1974 from the City College of New York and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University in 1981.

Piper's early works consisted of drawings and diagrams grounded in a minimalist aesthetic and influenced by emerging conceptual ideology. In Concrete Infinity Documentation Piece (1970), Piper became the main subject of the work by outlining daily facts about her body over the period of a month. The fifty-seven-page text includes daily self-portraits and diary entries indicating facts such as weight, foods consumed, bodily waste evacuated, and people encountered. In the same year, Piper embarked on the Catalysis series of performances consisting of unannounced idiosyncratic actions in public such as shopping in clothing covered in wet paint and riding the bus with a rag stuffed in her mouth. Piper further explored issues of xenophobia and racism in the series The Mythic Being (1973-1976), in which she took on the persona of a hip black male. Many of Piper's works were prompted by her own experiences as a light-skinned woman of color in the art and academic worlds. Often witness to racist remarks by white colleagues who assumed she was white, Piper produced My Calling (Card) #1 (1986-1990), in which she would hand a card to the offender announcing that she was black and apologizing for any discomfort her presence would cause. Similarly, Piper’s large multimedia installations of the 1990s such as What It's Like, What It Is #3, challenged viewers to confront their own racial stereotypes.

As the first tenured female African-American professor in the field of philosophy, Piper has taught at many prestigious colleges and universities across the United States. Her extensive body of work and her writings have had a significant influence on younger artists such as Renee Green, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson, and Fred Wilson. Piper has received numerous awards for her work as a philosopher and artist including a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1989, a position as scholar-in-residence at the Getty Research Institute, and honorary degrees from the Massachusetts College of Art and the California Institute of the Arts. Piper currently resides in Berlin, Germany and Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Other Occupation(s):
Activist, Critic, Philosopher, Professor, Teacher, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA (1981) University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany (1977-1978) Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA (1974-1977) The City College of New York, New York, NY, USA (1970-1974) School of Visual Arts, New York, NY, USA (1966-1969)
Related Visual Artists:
friend of and influenced by Sol LeWitt colleague of Donna Dennis colleague of and collaborated with Rosemary Mayer collaborated with Houston Conwill collaborated with Sam Gilliam collaborated with John Takami Morita collaborated with Howardena Pindell collaborated with Kaylynn TwoTrees influenced by Vito Acconci influenced by Marcel Duchamp influenced by Alan Kaprow influenced by Agnes Martin influenced by Yvonne Rainer influenced Renee Green influenced Glenn Ligon influenced Lorraine O'Grady influenced Lorna Simpson influenced Fred Wilson
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Skowhegan Medal for Sculptural Installation, The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME, USA (1995) Scholar in Residence, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA, USA (1998-1999) Fellowship, The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York, NY, USA (1989)
Earliest exhibition:
Number Seven, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, NY, USA (1969)
NMWA exhibition(s):
WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Artist retrospective(s):
Adrian Piper: A Retrospective, Fine Arts Gallery, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA (1999-2000) Adrian Piper, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham and Cornerhouse, Manchester, England (1991-1992) Adrian Piper: Reflections 1967-1987, The Alternative Museum, New York, NY, USA (1987)